BEMIDJI – Discussion over how to grow the local economy took center stage in a debate between candidates for the state House 2B seat.
Brita Sailer, a DFLer who represented the district in the House from 2005 to 2010, will face Steve Green, R-Fosston, in November’s election. Sailer lost to Rep. David Hancock, R-Bemidji, who came in as part of a Republican sweep of the state House and Senate in 2010. Hancock is now running for the newly-branded House District 2A.
The new House District 2B sits just north of Detroit Lakes and includes Park Rapids.
Green, who said he is a “self-employed contractor” on his candidate filings, repeated the need to improve the business climate in the state throughout the debate. He advocated for easing regulations and more drilling in order to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and create jobs.
In her closing remarks, Sailer commented that there needs to be some streamlining regulations and permitting processes but also championed tax fairness, seeking renewable energy and closing corporate loopholes as a way to help pay back the $2.4 billion that has been borrowed from schools to balance the budget.
“We need to stop using our schools as a bank,” she said. “They’re not a bank, they’re a public education system.”
Sailer said that while there will be budget cuts coming, legislators need to look at ways of making sure corporations are not “avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.”
“Obviously if corporations aren’t paying their taxes, then that needs to be looked into, but I don’t think that’s the case,” Green countered. “You want to punish someone for leaving the state because they can’t make ends meet, and how do you do that when they’re gone?”
Green said the climate is “unfavorable” to businesses in the state, and suggested easing regulations and reducing taxes. He also lamented the fact that much of the state is publicly-owned and not on the tax rolls.
Sailer said having a good public education system and being open-minded with changes in technology would help businesses grow in the area. She also said bonding bills are needed to help maintain public schools.
Green said he “didn’t know” if he would push for any particular project as part of bonding bill, though he acknowledged that those projects can create infrastructure jobs. He said there are too many other financial issues that need to be addressed first.
“We need to spur jobs in this state,” Green said. “We need new industry, but we can’t forget about the industry that we have.”